Oregon Delegation Urges Swift Distribution of Emergency COVID-19 Funds to Health Care Providers

Oregon Delegation Urges Swift Distribution of Emergency COVID-19 Funds to Health Care Providers

Lawmakers write in bipartisan letter to feds that expediency in payment is critical for Oregon health care providers

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, and U.S. Reps. Peter DeFazio, Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici, Kurt Schrader and Greg Walden today urged federal officials to distribute emergency funds as soon as possible for health care providers in Oregon and nationwide to cover expenses and revenues lost due to COVID-19.

In a bipartisan letter today to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, the Oregon lawmakers said distributing $100 billion from the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (PHSSEF) was urgently needed by health care providers, communities, and families that have risen to the occasion in response to the coronavirus public health crisis.

“The Administration must meet these heroes on the front lines and deliver these Congressionally appropriated dollars without delay to those in need,” the lawmakers wrote. 

The lawmakers noted that Oregon’s share of the $100 billion in the PHSSEF from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) is a must to help the state’s hospitals, physician practices, nursing homes, home health agencies, hospices, and other health care providers meet enormous challenges. 

“Since the first COVID-19 case was reported in Oregon, hospitals and health care providers across the state have rallied to meet the COVID-19 challenge with too few tests, personal protective equipment (PPE), and staff while watching operating revenue plummet,” the Oregon lawmakers wrote, citing major hospital investments to develop surge capacity, buy essential medical supplies and equipment while supporting an adequate workforce.

“At the same time, they are facing a significant decrease in revenue, forced to cancel elective procedures to prevent further transmission of COVID-19 and make room for COVID-19 patients,” they wrote.“These challenges are all the more concerning for rural and safety-net hospitals in Oregon, without whom many communities would have no access to health care." 

“The time for aggressive action is now,” they wrote. “Congress provided these critical funds, and those dollars need to get to the hands of America’s health care system now.  We therefore request that you make any application process as easy as possible to complete so providers can focus on saving lives rather than completing paperwork or worrying if their doors will stay open.”

A web version of this release is here.

The entire letter is below and here.

  

April 8, 2020

 

The Honorable Alex Azar

Secretary

Department of Health and Human Services

200 Independence Avenue, S.W.

Washington, D.C. 20201

 

Dear Secretary Azar, 

 

We respectfully request that you urgently distribute the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund’s (PHSSEF) $100 billion, and consider the needs of Oregon health care providers and stakeholders as you allocate these funds. In recent weeks, health care providers, communities, and families have risen to the occasion to do their part and respond to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) emergency. Our state has taken extraordinary steps to prepare the health care infrastructure for providing care to those who need it now and in the future. The Administration must meet these heroes on the front lines and deliver these Congressionally appropriated dollars without delay to those in need. 

Congress passed, and the President signed into law, the CARES Act (P.L. 116-136) which provides $100 billion in emergency funds for health care providers to cover expenses and lost revenues attributable to COVID-19. Expediency in making payments from the PHSSEF funds to eligible health care providers is critical.  The expected loss of life due to COVID-19 is unacceptable and can only be abated with swift, decisive action and assistance to those in the trenches fighting back. We urge HHS to distribute this funding as Congress intended, in a manner that is based on the emergency need and does not disadvantage states based on their population’s health care coverage or lack thereof.  

Since the first COVID-19 case was reported in Oregon, hospitals and health care providers across the state have rallied to meet the COVID-19 challenge with too few tests, personal protective equipment (PPE), and staff while watching operating revenue plummet.  For example, hospitals have invested millions of dollars to develop surge capacity, purchase essential medical supplies and equipment if available, and support an adequate workforce to respond to the acute care needs during the emergency. At the same time, they are facing a significant decrease in revenue, forced to cancel elective procedures to prevent further transmission of COVID-19 and make room for COVID-19 patients. These challenges are all the more concerning for rural and safety-net hospitals in Oregon, without whom many communities would have no access to health care. The people and organizations on the front lines of this crisis are in desperate need of support.  

Physician practices, nursing homes, home health agencies, hospices, and other health care providers in Oregon communities are also facing enormous challenges. We hear every day about the toll COVID-19 is taking on these providers, as they seek out scarce PPE, confront workforce shortages, and adjust to new ways of delivering care. These are just a few examples of providers working day in and day out to care for Oregonians under impossible circumstances. We urge you to consider providers across the health care spectrum when allocating the PHSSEF to ensure all providers have the resources they need. 

The time for aggressive action is now.  Congress provided these critical funds, and those dollars need to get to the hands of America’s health care system now.  We therefore request that you make any application process as easy as possible to complete so providers can focus on saving lives rather than completing paperwork or worrying if their doors will stay open.  We urge you to distribute the PHSSEF funds as soon as possible, reflecting the needs of Oregon health care providers working tirelessly to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the COVID-19 emergency.  

Sincerely,